The X-Men have been in a very dark place since the early 2000s, battling against the constant threat of extinction. All that's set to change later this year in the new "ResurrXion" era, with a brighter, more hopeful hue. Popular titles have been announced that hark back to classic and much-loved X-Men series — and top of that list is Christina Strain's Generation X!
Christina Strain's Comic Book Background
The X-Men have always had a distinctive appeal for Christina Strain. As she observes, she's a tall, half-Korean American nerd who lived off-base in Seoul, South Korea until she was 18. She didn't look or sound like any of her Korean neighbors, and she definitely didn't fit in at high school. As a result, she was always drawn to stories like those of the X-Men, where characters learn to cope with who they are and where they belong.
Back in the '90s, Christina read the comics — but not as consistently as she watched the classic X-Men animated series!
"The '90s X-Men cartoon was my god damn life's blood. Rogue and Gambit were everything."
With her love of superheroes, it was inevitable that Christina would pursue a job in the industry; she started out as a colorist, and her work quickly caught the eyes of CrossGen. Although things at CrossGen didn't work out — the company sadly folded — Christina had built strong industry contacts through conventions. Impressed with some of her work for CrossGen, Erik Ko at Udon suggested that she try out for a series called Runaways. Thus, Christina became part of one of #Marvel's most popular creative teams!
Reflecting on her time working with comic book legend Brian K. Vaughan, Christina observes:
"Brian's had a massive impact on me. There's a reason people love reading his stuff. The guy writes what he wants, to his taste, and he's got incredible taste. And that's important because while writing's a craft, good writers have a voice and the ability to trust it. Brian's stories have something to say, and he says it the way only he can — which is why we all throw our money at him and buy all his books.
The other thing about Brian is that it's not just his writing that's influential, it's his ability to collaborate. Runaways was hands down the best working experience I've ever had in comics and so much of it was because of the team. We all loved each other as much as we loved that book and I think it showed."
At the same time as working with Vaughan, she also had the privilege of working with Sean McKeever on Spider-Man Loves Mary-Jane — another fan-favorite. She describes that experience as "amazing", and sums up that time quite simply: "Both books and teams were just so charming in every way."
How Christina Shifted to Writing
With a background in manwha and manga, Christina was used to a slightly more diverse output than what the 'Big Two' were producing. After about seven years of coloring superheroes, she decided it was time to write the kind of story she wanted to work on. The result was her supernatural horror webcomic, The Fox Sister, which proved to be the first step on a whole new career path. She retired as a colorist, and went to grad school for screenwriting. There, she soon found herself fortunate enough to work as a staff writer on Syfy's The Magicians. Christina considers that a very different experience to writing for comics:
"They're both visual storytelling mediums, but TV is a moving medium and comics are static. Comics are all about capturing key frames — singular images that encapsulate the movement and emotion of a key moment in time. And comics force you to be economical because you don't have the page real estate to spend on a bunch of subtle actions or storytelling through “looks.”
Another thing is that when you're writing comics, you're also directing. Because it's our job to communicate to the artist exactly what to draw and exactly what emotions the characters need to convey. That's not the case in TV writing. Sure, you want to communicate the intention of a scene to your director and actor, but it's not the writer's job to block a shot or tell an actor exactly how to play a scene. That would be overstepping in TV."
Marvel's Editor Chris Robinson reached out to Christina to write a short story for the Civil War II: Choosing Sides anthology, focusing in on the Korean character White Fox. Robinson originally suggested that White Fox should side with Captain Marvel. Christina disagreed, arguing that as a Korean, White Fox would insist on the right to pursue her own destiny.
To Christina's surprise and delight, this seems to have been her reintroduction to the world of comics — she was soon approached to write the new Generation X series!
Now, Christina's moving into the X-Men franchise, and writing her first ongoing: Generation X. She was given a surprising amount of leeway — her editor Daniel Ketchum essentially said, “Come up with a concept and list of teen mutants you'd want for a relaunch of Generation X.”
The pitch is a fascinating one: "lovable losers".
"The thing is, we're at peak superhero. Like, when I was in high school, no one but total nerds knew who Iron Man was. Now, everyone knows his name's Tony Stark because superheroes are at the forefront of pop culture. There's nothing weird or unusual about them anymore. They're total bad asses. So I wanted some of the lesser utilized characters because I wanted to give them their moment to shine. Just because they're “lovable losers”, doesn't mean they can't make a difference."
The cast of the book includes fan-favorite Jubilee, a '90s-era X-Men character who played a major role in the original Generation X. Over in the comics, Jubilee was depowered and transformed into a vampire; Christina won't rule anything out, but cautions that she doesn't love retcons, and she likes limitations. While she acknowledges that every X-Men fan misses Jubilee's powers, she doesn't want to lose the opportunity to explore what being a vampire has done to her and her humanity.
Another fascinating character who'll be featuring in Generation X is a little-known X-Man called Nature Girl, who was created by Jason Latour.
"When I was reading up on Lin (Nature Girl) and realized that she could communicate with both plants and animals, my immediate question was: “If she can talk to basically everything, wtf does she eat!?” So then I realized that she was probably a fruitarian and immediately I knew exactly who she was: my inner hangry Asian.
I see Lin as a character who identifies with nature more than she does humanity, like a more fatalistic version of Hiyao Miyazaki. She wants to connect and she's trying to give humanity the benefit of the doubt, but it's hard. People demand to be heard and get what they need but they're not great at reciprocating. And that doesn't go unnoticed with Lin. People can be jerks and she struggles with that."
There's also an original character, Nathaniel Carver, who Christina seems to have loved designing; her artistic approach has really colored the design.
"I did provide some of the initial design descriptions for Amilcar. He's got grey hair because almost everyone on the team is a brunette, always wears fresh white shoes (like a friend of mine), wears vintage clothing and gloves because his power's psychometry (the ability to see someone/something's past through touch), and is half-Korean because I am."
It's clear to see that Christina's artistic background strongly influenced her design — not only is she thinking over the character, but her first description of Nathaniel is about his aesthetics, and how he fits with the visual design of the team. She has nothing but praise for Amilcar Pinna, the artist who'll be working with her on the book.
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This year's definitely an exciting one for Marvel's favorite mutants. "ResurrXion" promises to be a breath of fresh air for X-Men fans, and Christina Strain looks set to introduce a tremendously exciting new element to the X-Men universe. The Generation X brand may be an old one, but its about to get a serious makeover! Meanwhile, if you want to see more of Christina's writing, don't forget to check out The Magicians Season 2 — launching on Syfy January 25th!
Are you excited about 'Generation X'?
(Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)